[Birthday Frame]

Ah, another secret project…  

I decided to frame a map of Oxford, England (its printed on cloth, like a handkerchief) my wife picked up when she was going to college there.  It has survived the journey back across the Pond and moved from Illinois to Delaware, Florida, Texas, and now Wisconsin….the whole time it’s been folded neatly and neglected in a box.


No more!   It’s such a cool map and I know she loved her time in England so much so I wanted to let her enjoy the map by getting it framed.  However, as a former slave for Michaels–I know this could cost hundreds of dollars. With baby #3 on the way, I can’t justify dropping that kind of dough on a frame, no matter how cool the map is….

So what to do?

More shop time, of course!  I found this great video on Youtube from Steve Ramsey, host of Woodworking For Mere Mortals (WWMM).  He walks you through making a neat picture frame using a router table.  It even incorporates inlay moulding, which makes me think of the custom shop at my old store.

To watch his excellent video, click here.  I can’t recommend it enough—-and check out his other videos, full of wisdom, humor, and instruction.  A very valuable resources for the hobby woodworker.

Anyway, the first step is to get some 1×4 lumber.  I used pine because a much as everyone likes exotic wood, pine with an amber shellac finish always looks nice and I think the rustic look will compliment the map.

According to Steve, first use a 1/4″ roundover bit in  the routed table (I knew there was a reason I built this thing!) and take off the corners of one side, top amd bottom:



Then you rip (he uses a table saw) the rounded bit (about a 1/4-1/2″ thick) free of the rest of the wood.  I used the razor saw, followed by the hand planes to return the stock to square.


Here’s a trick I used to start my cuts nice and square without measuring.  I happened to see an episode of the Woodwright’s Shop where St. Roy had The Schwarz on to demonstrate sawing technique.  He said when you line up the reflection of the wood in the saw blade, your cut will be square:


And damn if it didn’t work like a charm every time!   I had the moulding inlay ripped free in no time.  Steve did all the router work on one long piece and cut it to length later.  I cut pieces 2″ longer for each side of the frame to make it easier (and possible) to rip the moulding by hand.

Next I needed to to cut the rest of the lumber to width (2″) and rout a channel with a 3/4″ straight bit (so the ripped moulding will fit perfectly).   The pine I had proved too knotty and sappy so I looked to some nice poplar I had laying around (1″x2″) and cut lengths to match the moulding.

I rounded over each edge on the face side of the poplar with the same roundover bit I used earlier.  Then I set my 3/4″ straight bit in the router table about half as deep as I needed, adjusted the new shopmade fence and got routing.   Once the bit was raised for the second pass, I had four pieces of wood with a nice channel:


Then, with a dry fit of the moulding, you get this profile:


Here’s the long view:


Lastly, I needed to cut a rabbet on the back of the frame for the glass, map, and backerboard.  I used the straight bit again and made two passes on each piece to get a depth that will hold the map/glass/backer:


And here’s the completed moulding, ready for glue up and the miter saw…


Next it was a matter of using the chop saw to make the miters, fit each side around the piece of glass I got and and glue everything up! The corners were not perfect but they were a new personal best so the excitement continued.

The corners were close enough however that simple painters tape was enough to hold everything tight while the glue dried.

Before long (thanks to the heat we’ve had lately) the frame was dry and ready for sanding to get everything nice and smooth. Then it was 6 coats of amber shellac painted on (sanded with 220 grit after the first and 5th coats). On the final coat I used the brown paper bag trick to buff the shellac and get a nice shine.

For mounting the map, I used a piece of foam core poster board cut to size and wrapped it to fit. Using 4 tiny brads left over from another project I locked the map and backer in place. And here’s the result!




And the best part is Sara loved it! Definitely have to do this again…

Thanks to Steve Ramsey for the awesome video and idea!


About Steven M. Vaught

A native son of Delaware, now living in Illinois, Steven is a writer, family historian, amateur astronomer, sometimes-gardener, woodworker, father to three wonderful children, husband to a wonderful wife, and caretaker of one cheeky vizsla.
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